Gay Comic Book Characters: A Brief History of Gay Superheroes

Recently, one of the biggest stories in the world of comic books was the "outing" of two mainstream comic book characters, Shatterstar and Rictor. In Peter David's X-Force, these two long-time friends shared an impromptu kiss after a harrowing battle, finally putting to bed fan questions about their sexuality.

To long time fans, this comes as no real shock as the two would often go off on long off-panel "adventures", the contents of which were never revealed. The two shared the first-ever visible, high profile kiss between two men in the history of Marvel Comics. Despite Shatterstar creator (and embarrassment to art) Rob Liefield's complaints, it looks like the two will be batting for the other team for the foreseeable future.

In honor of the event, let's take a look back at some other mainstream comic book characters who tend towards same-sex relationships. And for those interested in the softer side, read more about lesbian superheroes here.

X-Men and Alpha Flight's Northstar
X-Men and Alpha Flight's Northstar

Northstar- Alpha Queer

Twenty years has been a long time in the world of social activism. In the world of comic books, where last weeks adventures are old news, its several generations of deaths and resurrections. When Canadian super-team Alpha Flight's resident speedster and fashion model Northstar came out of the closet in 1992, it was a major news story. In a world where AIDS was running rampant and people were still frightened and confused about the causes, Northstar came out to aid those who would be shunned by closed mindedness - both in the comic book world of flying and magic and the real world.

Marvel has decided to use their first gay character for another first: the first same-sex superhero wedding to ever be depicted in Marvel comics. Northstar will marry his non-powered boyfriend in Astonshing X-Men 51. Luckily, the X-Men's home state of New York welcomes gay marriage. Of course, Northstar's native Canada has allowed homosexual unions for years, but don't think too hard about that.

John Byrne, the man most commonly credited with creating the Northstar character, claims that Norhtstar's homosexuality was always part of the character. In fact, Northstar was supposed to have an AIDS crisis of his own, but skittish Marvel editors pulled the plug. They explained the increasingly sick and feeble Northstar's illness as being caused by a previously unknown fey heritage that required him to return to the mystical world of Asgard.

That's right - he wasn't gay. Just a fairy.


Obsidian kissing some dude
Obsidian kissing some dude

Obsidian - Creature of Shadow, Loves Broadway

DC Comics isn't without their own stable of homosexual characters. With the lesbian Batwoman headlining Detective Comics, they have one of the most high profile LGBT characters in mainstream comics. However, she wasn't their first gay character - not by a long shot.

Obsidian is the son of Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern. Both he and his sister Jade received super powers due to their fathers mystical heritage. While his sister received Green Lantern like powers, Obsidian gained the ability to control shadows and meld his body with the darkness. After some bouts with mental illness and villainy, Obsidian came around and then came out.

Now serving with the Justice Society of America, Obsidian has gained a rather high profile in the DC Universe. He was also a recurring cast member of the Manhunter comic where he expressed his love of Stephen Sondheim musicals and had a rather steamy bedroom scene with another male character.


Wiccan and Hulkling
Wiccan and Hulkling

Wiccan and Hulkling

These two teen aged members of the Young Avengers are part of a new generation of super heroes who seem less concerned about sexuality and more concerned with actual heroing. The news of their relationship brought nary a raised eyebrow to their team mates and has rarely been treated as anything other than a regular relationship.

Early in the comic's history, the two tried to let their parents know they were dressing up and playing super hero after school. Their parents misunderstood what type of coming out the two had planned and immediately informed them they had known they were gay for a long time and accepted them no matter what.

They never did get around to telling them they were super heroes, but the lack of drama surrounding the entire situation was a nice change of pace from big reveals and melodrama.

Apollo and Midnighter

He's like Batman but makes people's heads explode. He's like Superman and he ALSO makes people's heads explode but he's not as happy about it. The Midnighter and Apollo are the Wildstorm universes premiere gay couple. No ambiguity here, the two Authority heroes have kissed, made love, gotten married, and adopted themselves a baby girl. If they weren't dysfunctional fascists with a mean streak, they'd be an inspiration to America.

The two have faced criticisim for being perhaps... too "queeny" with one another, but this rare couple have often been the realistic face of gay comicbook characters, with no taboo holding them back.

Gay Green Lantern Alan Scott
Gay Green Lantern Alan Scott

Alan Scott

Woah! The original Green Lantern, Alan Scott, has joined the ranks of LGBT superheroes in the DC's New 52 universe. Unfortunately, he's only in the rebooted Earth-2 universe and won't be interacting with any of the characters in the main continuity. Also, the aforementioned Obsidian, probably doesn't exist any more.

Oh, well.

Well, check out James Robinson's Earth-2 and find out how Scott's new identity plays out!

The Best of the Rest

With comic books finally catching up with the times, there's more LGBT characters than can be run down in a reasonable amount of time. Here are a few more to help round out the roster.

  • Karolina Dean and Xavin - She's a gay teenage alien. He's a gender confused shape-changer (also an alien). They love each other, but she's not down with the man-parts. Good thing he's a shape changer...
  • John Constantine - No, not Keanu Reeves. This British paranormal detective is an affirmed bisexual and tangentially part of the DC Universe.
  • Anole- This young X-Man under the tutelage of Northstar also came out after early speculation about his sexuality. Those X-Folks are might progressive

That's it for now, and I appreciate no Batman and Robin jokes. We both have new material, thanks very much. If you enjoyed this article, read about Gay Video Game Characters too!

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Comments 25 comments

iamJstyle profile image

iamJstyle 7 years ago from Idaho

Wow I was never aware of any sort of homosexuality depictions in Marvel comics, though I will say I was never privileged enough to be able to collect comics, I was more of a follower of the animated series and films. I do think that in the world we live in now it would be ok to further explore these characters. With the audience of Marvel aging, I think it would be good to age the characters with the audience. I talk about that and other things in my article about X-Men and it's Evolution on Tv and Film in my hub http://hubpages.com/hub/Wolverine-The-X-Men-Yes-or... I think it's worth a look.


fireball34 profile image

fireball34 7 years ago

Never Knew- thanks for the insight~


sabrebIade profile image

sabrebIade 6 years ago from Pennsylvania

YEARS ago I was at a comic convention and John Byrne was doing a sketch of Northstar for someone talking about Alpha Flight (this is right after they came out). Byrne off-handedly said " Oh yeah, Northstar's gay".

Everyone froze.

"And he's gonna get AIDS and die".

Not a word.

Then he started laughing and everyone else laughed too.

Then he said " I'm serious." and kept drawing without looking up.

So Byrne did have that planned a long time ago.

Yes I'm old...LOL


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

Wasn't there a big flap once when Rawhide Kid was revealed as gay? He was around the Marvel Universe from the very beginning, but he meant nothing to it for decades....

It seemed as if that was relatively recently, also, but I could be wrong there.

By the way, Sabreblade, your not old--I remember when Byrne was Marvel's hot NEW artist.


Len Cannon profile image

Len Cannon 6 years ago from Brooklyn, NY Author

There was indeed a thing when Rawhide kid was shown as gay. That was pretty much the entire plot of the comic: Rawhide Kid is gay and makes people uncomfortable.

Apparently the last issue revealed he wasn't actually gay and he just pretended to make it easier to catch criminals or something.


RosWebbART profile image

RosWebbART 6 years ago from Ireland

Great hub; thanks


Trunfio profile image

Trunfio 6 years ago from Pacific Northwest

This is great! Just getting into graphic novels -- glad to know we're representing!


retrobandit profile image

retrobandit 6 years ago from Texas

Great hub. Very informative.


thehands profile image

thehands 6 years ago

Never knew about most of these. "Not down with the man-parts." Haha.


Klena profile image

Klena 5 years ago from England

A few ones I never knew about that, thanks for writing a hub on it!


EltMrx profile image

EltMrx 5 years ago

Interesting... Now will any of them be able to get married?

-EltMrx


ruffridyer 5 years ago from Dayton, ohio

It seems all the gay charactors rate pretty low in popularity. How about someone like Joker, he already wears lots of make up and seems to have a love-hate relationship with Batman. Maybe wolverine, it could help exsplain his anger issues. Sexual frustation. Of course a Gay Hulk would Really be frightning!


Blazecub 5 years ago

Actually in the Ultimates Universe of Marvel Colosus expresses his true feelings for wolverine while they shower at the base. Too bad he was just day dreaming about his furry comrade. :)


jamiesweeney profile image

jamiesweeney 5 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

New to me! Thanks for this information.


mercedes 4 years ago

I have a good idea for new super heroes.


mercedes kirkland 4 years ago

I have a realy good idea for some new super heroes team .there called THE BAT-TEAM AND THE RAINBOW-TEAM.and what i realy like about tham is there the first all gay and bi super heroes team up.It would be groovy if THE BAT-TEAM AND RAINBOW-TEAM was t.v. cartoon show.If you want to learn more find my famly in the phone book.


mercedes kirkland 4 years ago

Its me again. i love THE JUSTICE LEAGEU and there gave the idea for THE BAT-TEAM and RAINBOW-TEAM.I LOVE D.C. COMIC IN FACT I WANT THE BAT-TEAM AND RAINBOW-TEAM TO BE D.C. COMIC .THE BAT-TEAM and THE RAINBOW-TEAN WORK TOGETHER.there FIGHT for JUSTICE ,FAIRNESS FREEDOM,PRIDE,LOVE ,AND PEACE ON EARTH, AND GAY BI RIGHTS.my family is in the phone book if you want to learn more.last name is kirkland.I have storys about the THE BAT-TEAM and i just added THE RAINBOW-TEAM.Im not good at art so there no comic books ait.I can't spell good as you can tell.I NEED HELP TO MAKE THE BAT-TEAM INTO A T.V SHOW AND COMIC BOOK .MY MOM HAS A FACE BOOK PAGE HER NAME IS CRYSTAL KIRKLAND.


annie 4 years ago

I,m friends with mercedes i seen her storys about THE BAT-TEAM WITH THE RAINBOW-TEAM in than.there good .it just THE BAT-TEAM THE RAINBOW-TEAM ARE JUST CHARACTES in the story .some of the characters are gay and bi.


mercedes kirkland 4 years ago

if you like SPANDEX THE GAY SUPER HEROES MINT love THE BAT-TEAM.BUT there not gay there bi and gay.went THE BAT-TEAM ARE'T SAVING THE DAY THERE A BRAND CALLED THE BAT SISTERS THE DRUMER ,AND THE FABULOUS DANCING FOUR.


paralegalpro 4 years ago

Great overview. I'm not really a comic book reader, but was interested to see your description about how each character was handled in the context of their unique universes. Thanks for sharing.


Carlos Catatonia profile image

Carlos Catatonia 4 years ago from new orleans, louisiana

I guess there are gay writers, because all this was in someone's head before it was on a page. Vote up for the writing ability used to inform me of this...stuff.


cperuzzi profile image

cperuzzi 3 years ago from Freehold, NJ

Other than the language toward the gay community being a little on the harsh side, your article is spot on. I almost hesitate to mention the obvious Bat-woman/Renee Montoya relationship as well as the Phyla-Vell/Moondragon coupling.

Peter David was never one to shy away from this topic in any of his stories. This would also include the Moondragon/Marlo Jones "experimental" fooling around.


superherojames profile image

superherojames 2 years ago from Manchester, UK

Interesting stuff here. I reinforce the feeling of how intriguing it is to see how different super realms react to gay relationships. Guess it's just like different countries on our own planet. I have a not too dissimilar blog on some of the strangest superheroes around which may interest you.


colbeyfreddie 2 years ago

Personally, I don't care what sexuality superheroes are.

As long as their stories are good.


owlish profile image

owlish 15 months ago from Cheshire

Thank you for a really great overview. As a chiefly Marvel collector (I love Northstar, I've seen the older comics in which he reveals his own homosexuality and that touches on the AIDS crisis but didn't know that his plotline was going that way too- I have to admit to some relief in the sense that whilst it would have sent a powerful message to have a HIV+ superhero, at that age it would have ultimately made him into a tragedy, wheras it was possible for Marvel to cure the legacy virus in its stories) it was interesting to hear about the DC characters too.

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